While Google has been dominating the mobile photography game for two years in a row with its Pixel and Pixel 2 lineup of Android flagships, it lost that crown this year as the Pixel 3 series failed to outperform the majority of its rivals, French imaging company DxOMark reports, citing its in-depth review of the latest Google-branded handsets. DxOMark's scientific approach to camera reviews has been used as a quality benchmark by manufacturers for many years now and Google was quick to tout the first two generations of its Pixel devices as the best mobile imaging tools ever after the firm rated them as such but the powers have shifted this year and even though the Pixel 3 is still believed to be the best single-lens smartphone setup in the history of the industry, Google's insistence on sticking with a sole sensor on the back is now finally starting to show as its software was unable to once again elevate the below-average hardware system, the new review reveals.
DxOMark rated the Pixel 3 camera with a score of 101 on its non-finite scale, putting it below the Huawei P20 series, Samsung Galaxy Note 9, HTC U12+, Xiaomi Mi MIX 3, and both of Apple's 2018 iOS flagships – the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR. While the company has yet to review Huawei's Mate 20 family, the overall improvements that line introduced after the P20 series debuted suggest those devices offer a superior mobile photography experience to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL as well.
Google's stubbornness now clearly showing
The imaging experts behind the review were certainly impressed by the performance Google managed to squeeze out of the single 12.2-megapixel sensor found on the back of its latest Android handsets but the company's unwillingness to embrace a dual-camera solution has now left it clearly behind this year's greatest smartphones. Even in the single-lens segment, the iPhone XR tied the Pixel 3 in terms of still photography and only fell behind in DxOMark's video review. And though the verdict is impressive in a vacuum, it also confirms that Google now lost arguably the main selling point of its last two smartphone generations – the claim of offering the absolute best mobile photography experience on the market. The insistence on a single rear camera is particularly puzzling in the context of the larger Pixel 3 XL that even has a two-sensor setup on the front, though that solution wasn't part of DxOMark's test and is still believed to be inferior to the main camera of the device. Still, one inarguably positive takeaway from the newest findings is that consumers interested in a premium mobile camera that aren't thrilled with the phablet form factor will be best served if they buy the smaller Pixel 3. DxOMark's findings largely correspond to Android Headlines' own review of the Pixel 3 camera from two months ago.
A year to forget
Coupled with the unbecoming notch found on the Pixel 3 XL and countless reports of software bugs plaguing Google's official product forums, it appears this is a year to forget for fans of hardware made by Alphabet's subsidiary, especially given how the company is still demanding top prices for its products; prices that can buy arguably better devices in overall. On the subject of mobile imaging, Google's 2018 focus was largely placed on new software features, some of which were lauded as excellent (e.g. Night Sight), though others were widely described as barely more than simple gimmicks. When questioned on why the firm opted against a dual-camera system on the back of the Pixel 3 line, Google officials previously talked about the company's product philosophy that's based on blending great hardware with equally great software but never addressed the inquiry in a direct manner.
And while there's no doubt Google saved some money on production costs by not incorporating an extra sensor into at least one of its new Android handsets, it remains to be seen whether that decision was worth it seeing how its latest devices are now simply lacking a defining, best-in-class feature, save from offering arguably the most premium stock Android experience on the market, something most consumers simply don't care about. Still, given how virtually every major phone maker will be ditching single-lens camera systems in 2019, Google is likely to follow suit, though only time will tell whether that will be enough for it to reclaim the mobile photography crown it now lost.